Dress for Battle
Persecution of Christians is increasing.
We hear horrible stories coming out of India.
We are concerned about the developments in the Middle East.
In the West, Christians are asking themselves: how long would we be able to deal with this?
To ask the question is good. Just put yourself in the shoes of those whose lives are threatened because of their faith in Christ. It is a reality where everything is different. At any moment you can lose everything, or you may have to flee.
And then the permanent hate, the way that others look at you. To be locked out.
Pray for them! Do not withdraw yourself from their suffering.
At the same time, it is also true that this struggle does not come about because of what people do to us (Eph. 6:12). That is quite a discovery, almost mind blowing. Go tell the people who live in fear each day for the people around them. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, it says in verse 12. No, are you sure?
Yes, of course we do! It is a manner of speech.
The Spirit wants to make clear that the deciding battle takes place in a manner you do not see. People may persecute you, they may even kill you. This is terrible, it can go very deep and make your life miserable. But in the meantime, the great enemy, whom you do not see, is trying to dig the faith out of your heart. That is truly deadly. For ever.
That is why the difference is shown in a remarkable way. This could be said in a concentration camp, with all its horrors. As an encouragement, to continue to confess Christ as only Lord in your life. Then to die is not the worst thing. For he brings you back from death. But to lose your faith, that would be terrible. Then you are lost.
Therefore, live with all those who are being persecuted. Pray for them and assist them where you can. Pray for the people who are going there. And for the people who live there and want to preach the gospel there. What bravery is needed for that, and yet…, people do it.
For they look upon Jesus. With him is the decision, and nowhere else. Who is he?
Without him you are lost. But with him, you can move mountains. At the same time, it is necessary to consider that every Christian fights the same battle. Do not be fooled by people.
Society can be very tolerant of everyone, and also of you. But in the meantime, the great enemy, whom you do not see, is trying to take the faith out of your heart. That is his goal, always and everywhere. He does not care if you are sick or healthy, free, or imprisoned. He has little interest in that. The only thing that drives him, is to take people away from Jesus.
John saw how the air was darkened with smoke (Rev. 9:2), so that people are unable to see heaven. Successful, healthy, free people, then lose their sight of God. They then lose their lives.
The battle is not against flesh and blood. The battle also does not lie dormant when people create that impression. Always and everywhere, our battle rages “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
Dress for battle therefore with the weaponry that God gives you.
How theoretical is that? “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth” it says in Ephesians 6:14. That is a metaphor. Many people think that a metaphor is vague, and not realistic. The opposite is true: in a metaphor much truth can be summarized and be passed along powerfully!
A belt served to pull up a long robe. People did that when they were in a hurry and had to walk fast. Then they prevented stepping on the seam of the robe. A belt was very helpful.
And so it is with the truth, says the Spirit. This is how you use her. Then you can always get away in this world.
Jesus is the truth in person (John 14:6). Whatever heaps of rubble we encounter in this world, here stood his cross. And in a certain sense it is still standing there. For that is how he paid for this whole world. Whatever happens, this is, and this becomes his kingdom! That is the truth!
So, it makes sense to get out of bed and get busy. To take things on. This world belongs to God and to no one else. The same applies to yourself, when you become ill, or feel weak.
The truth is that you belong to Jesus, that his Spirit makes you into his temple.
However a person may deteriorate, a Christian also is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16). This truth gives meaning and direction to your existence.
You can show up with this truth. You can go further with this, always and everywhere.
Even in times of persecution. In this, you are more free as a Christian than those who hate you.
With a freedom which no one can take away from you.
Righteousness is being put on you as a breastplate (Eph. 6:14). To protect your heart.
The question is: do we think of putting on the breastplate? For many people find it very important what others think and say about them. They will do anything to make sure that it will be positive. And they do not realize that in doing so they make themselves very vulnerable. For human judgment is often not so positive. Even with only a speck on you, this will be what the people will talk about. So, all specks must be removed. Ladies linger for hours in front of the mirror, the men conduct themselves bravely. Presentation is important.
With that comes the continuous quest for acceptance, for confirmation, to belong. For oh, if you are not part of the group… Who actually determines that? But it happens. Idols on TV set the tone for this; this is how you ought to be, not something else. So, fit in, come along, make it happen, whatever you need to do. But in the meantime, the great enemy, whom you do not see, is trying to pull the faith out of your heart.
Put on your breastplate of righteousness. Only Jesus determines who you are. He makes you right before God. Do you believe that? If so, what can man add to that? What can man take away from it?
But the heart also fights its own battle, from within. Through your consciousness which accuses you. You discover that you trespass all God’s commandments, that your desires are wrong. That voice from within is right; indeed, you are a sinner, more than others know of you.
So, there is even more reason to protect your heart with what God hands to you. Otherwise, you will lead a double life; to the outside you keep up the appearance and inwardly you are a loser. Believe that Jesus gave his life for your life. He gives that to you out of grace.
His life is your life. And he is quite aware of who you are. He does not turn the evil into right. But he gives an answer. He cleanses you. He places(makes) you right before God. So, stand there then.
And do not let anyone take that away from you.
The most important characteristic of a Christian is his willingness to serve God and his neighbour. For we share in the Spirit of Christ. He came to serve, not to be served, and to give his life as a ransom for many. He was always occupied with people. Day and night he was willing to speak to them.
This readiness is given to you as sandals on your feet according to Ephesians 6:15. To go places. To find people. Do not let anyone take those sandals away from you. Do not handle them too casually. Otherwise, you will not get out of your chair anymore, you will hang in front of your tv, and you do not get out of your beautiful home. Then it may have the appearance that you are doing nothing wrong. That all is A-okay with you. But in the meantime, the great enemy, whom you do not see, is trying to take the faith out of your heart.
Satan can shoot flaming darts at you, we read in verse 16. A dart hurts. It can hit you. And worse, it can set you on fire. Setting you ablaze, but for the wrong reasons.
Desires are silent killers. They keep you occupied, and hold you prisoner, they take everything away from you. Even your life is not safe. The great enemy, whom you do not see, knows how to stimulate them flawlessly.
Much can be said about faith. Here, in Ephesians 6:16, it is pictured as a shield, to take out those flaming darts. A vague metaphor? On the contrary, concrete expectations!
Our faith can never expect too much. Only too little. God will give us everything, in and with Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:32). He gives us all things! It is good to remember this, and so to handle the shield.
Whatever I look for or desire, he gives me more. Much more. Later, when he comes.
But also now already, through his Spirit in my heart. Jesus is the Son of God, he can fulfill us with himself and with his love. Whoever becomes full of him, retains ever fewer empty spots. That is how we extinguish the darts. And that is how we learn to live with (yet) unfulfilled desires.
Every day there is bad news. The greatest part of the newscast is about negative developments, disasters, and accidents. One would not know any different. It is easy to start thinking negatively and make sure to look only after yourself.
It is surprising that salvation is handed to us as a helmet, to protect our brains. Think about God, about the ongoing salvation. Then you do not get stuck. See his coming kingdom and help to make it visible.
In conclusion: consider that nothing can touch man so deeply as the Word of God. It is like a sword that pierces deeply (Heb. 4:12). A stimulating metaphor! The Word of God is to be handled, to be told, and to be taught. It will be efficient (2 Tim. 3:16).
It will open hearts, and it will change people.
How? That we leave to God.
As long as we speak his Word faithfully. And as long as we not let ourselves be discouraged.